Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Graduated Gamer Rants About Vendors

Trying to relive the glory years of my gaming past has turned out to be more difficult than I thought. At this point it’s led to nothing but me raging about morons who know nothing about gaming and see nothing but dollar signs when they look at a classic game cart. I just couldn't shake the terrible feeling I got after an experience at a flea market, even weeks later, so I figured I needed to share it with people in an extra attempt to exorcise this funk.

It all started over a month ago. After feeling quite down after a hard day at work and instead of doing something to raise my spirits I decided to take a self-destructive trip down painful memory lane.  I looked up my eBay history to review the time I sold almost my entire collection of used/retro games and consoles. After feeling depressed for another day or so, I finally became inspired to rebuild my gaming collection. Seeing as how it consisted of an SNES, PS2/PS1, and a Game Boy with games, how hard could it be? It’s not like I had a MIB Odyssey or anything else super rare. I couldn't have been more wrong.

Yup, you get another dose of my shame. Let it be an A++++ lesson for you all.

After 15 minutes of research I knew the first major obstacle I’d have to overcome was inflation. Apparently retro gaming has become really trendy and hip in the 6 years since selling my collection, causing prices for most old carts, manuals, and even guides to increase significantly. After swearing under my breath at myself a few times and blaming hipsters for this trend (when all else fails, blame hipsters), I tried to find creative ways to circumvent or at least soften this potential blow to my bank account. I thought, “I’ll use Craigslist, eBay, garage sales, and flea markets to rebuild my collection in no time.” Well, if you’re a retro gamer and collector, you know that eBay and (typically) Craigslist are breeding grounds for overpriced items and people with more money than knowledge on the subject, so these ideas were abandoned (I still browse Craigslist and eBay for those rare instances where you actually find a good deal, of which I've found a few).

This left only garage sales and flea markets. Since garage sales take more gas and time than I was willing to give, and since I was on vacation at the time, I started with a flea market. I figured I’d show up and there’d be stalls with old women selling things from their houses out of corrugated cardboard boxes and that I’d be able to snatch up some sweet SNES and Genesis carts for great deals. I had no idea what I was really in for. Apparently I’m too optimistic for my own good and have no idea how the real world works these days. No sooner did I enter the flea market did I spot a stall solely dedicated to video games – everything from the PS3/360 all the way down to the Atari 2600 was available for sale, including consoles, controllers, cords, you name it, they likely had it. I struck up a conversation with the proprietor who seemed knowledgeable and interested in my questions, even when they weren't about price. It appeared that I had found a fantastic start to my journey – it seemed too good to be true. How right I was.

I’m not one to just throw down money without doing my research first, so I decided to explore the mile-long flea market for other stalls. As you’d expect, my search didn't turn up any gem-filled boxes or unknowing old ladies. Instead all I got was lots of junk, old TVs, movie TAPES (seriously, I thought all VCRs and VHS tapes were ordered to be destroyed by the government or something), and “antiques”. Only one other booth sold video games, and the prices were outrageous – the average mark-up over standard price on loose retro carts and systems was at least 50%, sometimes as high as 75%. I left disgusted and disheartened, feeling like my past, my nostalgia, was now a distorted and mangled means for others to line their pockets. It was at that point that I decided to head back to the original stall to pick up some SNES and Genesis games (hell, maybe even a PS2 game here and there for $3 each). This was when the experience went from bad to worse.

This is essentially what shopping at a flea market looks and feels like.

I guess at this point in my life I should know a shark when I see one, but I’m generally a trusting person who tries to see the good in people. Perhaps it was the earlier conversation I had with the stall proprietor, or perhaps I was just in awe at the vast amounts of old Genesis, NES, and SNES games he had for sale, but whatever it was I thought this guy genuinely enjoyed gaming and respected it. Sure he was selling stuff and had to make money, but there’s always room to haggle and discuss price, right? Wrong. After looking for about 15 minutes and getting a stack of SNES, PS1, Genesis, and NES games set to go, I went to talk to the owner about price. Before he even mentioned a price, he told me that there was no way he was going to let me buy Final Fantasy Tactics, and said he was putting that on eBay. He then started bragging about how he got more money from eBay than anywhere else and his latest sales to what I assume he called “suckers”.

I was a little more than disappointed since FF Tactics is one of those games I started in my younger days but never finished. But there was still room for redemption with the remaining 6 games in hand. After hearing his prices for each, I went into barter mode. However, no sooner did a few words get out of my mouth did he interrupt me to tell me that at this point his prices were “take it or leave it” and that I had wasted enough of his time, during which 5 or 6 people came and went from his stall. Apparently my perusing and potential business distracted him so much that he missed 5 or 6 more suckers that he could grub more money out of. I was not only taken aback – I was pissed. I wish I could say I fired a witty retort back at him as I left, but I instead set the games down carefully (because unlike him I respect gaming and see it as much more than a way to make money), wished him luck with the rest of his day,  and walked away.

Needless to say I did no more shopping that day at the flea market. I helped haul my girlfriend’s box of finds to the car and stewed over the events of the day. I must have been very naïve, but it seems that somewhere between the day I sold my game collection and the present, retro gaming has become bastardized and commercialized. For so many people in this world, retro gaming is a means to so many things – rekindling old memories, reliving glory days, or just enjoying simple-old-fashioned gaming where the only achievement in the game is beating the final boss (and for some games, that’s one hell of an achievement). But I fear that retro gaming, due to its recent trendiness, has become simply another way for companies like GameStop and various other used games stores across the country to make a buck.

The face of evil has changed a lot over the years.

My original intent was to end on that very negative note, but you know what gamers, over the last couple of weeks I've realized that there’s still hope. I've met a few really awesome people through Craigslist who have not only appreciated my love for games and given me good deals, but they've also shared their great knowledge and passion for gaming, which in some ways is just as much fun as playing the games themselves. Sure, gaming has become commercialized and I may never truly rebuild my entire collection for the right price, but in my journey I've learned that no matter how much resale shops and vendors and eBay grifters raise the prices of the games we love, we’ll always have our drive and our love for gaming, and you sure as hell can’t put a price tag on that.


  1. WHY WOULD HE EVEN HAVE THE GAME OUT IF HE DIDN'T PLAN ON SELLING IT? Rage. Also I still have my old copy of FF Tactics for Playstation if you ever want to borrow it.

    1. OMG yes I would. I knew I kept you around as a friend for a reason ;)


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